Select Committee on Home Affairs Seventh Report

5  Structures

231. Since the 1960s, the police service in England and Wales has been structured into 43 individual forces, largely independent of each other but subject to common Home Office directives. Each force is sub-divided into basic command units, which have a lesser degree of autonomy over their budgets and areas of activity. Recent years have witnessed a growth both in policing activity undertaken at the regional level, and in activity at a very local level. In this chapter, we examine the success of these developments and the appropriateness of the service structure for the 21st century. We begin by examining how the police are held to account.

Accountability structures

The tripartite structure

232. Responsibility for policing is shared between police authorities, chief constables and the Home Secretary in the tripartite structure, established by the Police Act 1964. In theory, the tripartite arrangement sets out that the Home Secretary is responsible to Parliament for the overarching efficiency and effectiveness of the service in England and Wales, as well as the maintenance of minimum service standards. Chief constables are responsible for the operational effectiveness of police forces. Police authorities are responsible for setting the strategic direction for each force and holding the chief constable to account on behalf of the local community, by holding the budget and deciding how much council tax should be raised for policing; appointing the chief constable and senior officers; consulting with local people to find out what they want from their local police and setting local policing priorities and targets for achievement accordingly; monitoring the force against these targets; ensuring best value; and overseeing complaints.

233. Police authorities usually comprise nine local councillors appointed by the local council, five independent members selected following local advertisements and three magistrates from the local area. The Police and Magistrates Court Act 1995 and the Police Act 1996 reduced the size of the authorities and transferred direct management functions and control over budgets from the police authorities to chief constables. The 1996 Act also enabled the Home Secretary to call on a police authority to require its chief constable to retire; further powers formerly exercised by police authorities were given to the Home Secretary by the Police Act 2002 and Police and Justice Act 2006, including direct powers to take remedial action where there has been a negative inspection.

234. Sir Ronnie Flanagan identified the following concerns with current arrangements:

235. The Local Government Association (LGA), echoed some of these findings in a recent paper:

    The Home Secretary's powers through the setting of priorities and targets via the National Policing plan plus those resulting from the funding and audit and inspection regimes dwarf those of the police authority. The result is that the police authority is now much the weakest pillar in the tripartite structure … The consequence of the gradual weakening of police authorities over the 40-year period since the passing of the Police Act, is that the connection of the police to their local communities has been severely reduced. As a result the Home Secretary is the only visible politician who can be called to account for the way the police work.[268]

A recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has also described police authorities as "weak, unaccountable and remote".[269]

236. Police representatives tend to agree that the tripartite structure has become unbalanced with more power concentrated in the centre. The Minister of State broadly agreed:

    I do sincerely think that it is the Home Office's job to set the broad framework and it is for constabularies and their local politicians to determine the priorities within that framework, with incumbent responsibilities as well as rights, if I can put it in that way. One of the things we are looking at in the Green Paper … is how you get that balance right between affording much greater autonomy to forces who do the business and are excellent in terms of their performance across all range of measures, and how you intervene with those who are not as successful.[270]


237. The IPPR report proposes six options:

238. These options are broadly comparable with those set out in the Flanagan report, although the latter report also proposed the strengthening of police authorities through dedicated resources as a further option which avoided the risks of politicisation inherent in the others. Sir Ronnie declined to favour one model, but did give the following view:

    I think in the whole area of accountability there are two areas that require attention. For me one is at the level above an individual force, so that, for example, if we are talking, as we earlier did, about collaboration, what mechanisms are there actually to hold people to account? … I think there should be a mechanism of accountability that looks regionally and then, at the other end of the scale, I think much more has to be done to give people a feel that they can have a say in setting the policing priorities for their area.[272]

However, during his review he also found "there was not the appetite I thought there might be" for the opportunity to participate in formal structures to hold the police to account.[273]

239. The Police Federation, Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Association of Police Authorities (APA) all told us that a refocused tripartite structure would be the best structure for setting priorities and enabling local people to hold the police to account.[274] ACPO supports greater local accountability through local strategic partnerships, while retaining police authority accountability at force level, and urged "rejection of the notion of an elected Commissioner or 'Sheriff'": "This resistance arises from the determination that the service should remain apolitical as well as the operational requirement to move significant numbers of resources to police the harm or risk at a force, regional or national level".[275]

240. The Chair of the APA, Bob Jones, also argued strongly against a directly-elected accountability model:

    The danger with all directly-elected models is that we see that re-injection of the party-political theatre rather than more meaningful engagement because nobody can get a majority; nobody can say that the whip will deliver the vote and we will force it through … secondly, in terms of our partnership with the local level, obviously one of the major achievements since the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act is that there is much more meaningful partnership at local levels where all partners are responsible for driving down crime, not just the police. That has worked extremely well. Where you have a dual mandate, I am not sure that will help that partnership; I think it will introduce new frictions to that partnership.[276]

Mr Jones drew an analogy with the chair of the school governors deciding the school's teaching methods and curriculum. APA Vice-Chair, Phil Blundell, added:

    This word "accountable" has a lot to answer for I think. Do we really mean "accountable to" or do we mean "giving an account to"? The two processes are quite different. I am all for giving an account to the local people. To hand over … direct accountability either to the vagaries and micro-management potentials of central government, or indeed the popularism of the local vote, would be dangerous for policing.[277]

241. Those, such as the Mayor of London and the Policy Exchange think-tank who, on the other hand, support greater accountability through elected officials point to the successful crime reduction rates in US cities such as New York:

    The US experience shows that police forces which operate under the control of locally elected officials are more responsive to local demands, more innovative in developing new strategies, and deliver a higher level of uniformed presence on the streets … Although the fall in crime rates across the US has been assisted by a number of underlying demographic and social trends, changes in policing in response to community pressures and strong mayoral leadership have also made a major contribution.[278]

242. The Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Len Duvall, argued that police authorities needed to make better use of existing powers and structures "to be closer to local government".[279] The APA agreed with Sir Ronnie that police authorities were weak in terms of resources, but expected the new inspection regime coming into effect to help in this regard.[280]

243. In its Green Paper, the Government proposes to legislate to reform police authorities so that they retain independent members, appointed under the current system, and at least one councillor, but to create new Crime and Policing Representatives (CPRs), who will be directly elected and form the majority on each authority. CPRs will also sit on their local crime and disorder reduction partnership, which one of them will chair. Where a local government area already directly elects a mayor, this person will automatically be their local CPR. The intention is that police authorities would be strengthened through better guidance on capacity, improving training and skills development and removing barriers to data exchange with forces. The Government does not, however, propose to change arrangements in London, which currently has greater democratic accountability through the large number of authority appointments made by the democratically elected mayor.[281]

244. The Chairman of the Local Government Association, Councillor Margaret Eaton, expressed concern to us that the replacement of councillors with directly-elected crime and policing representatives will "undermine" partnership working between the police and local authorities:

    It is more than likely that directly-elected crime and policing representatives will have differing policy aims than local authorities, and potentially the police, making the agreement of joint objectives more difficult … The LGA also believes that the proposal to place crime and policing representatives in charge of Community Safety Funds could divert financial and other resources away from complex policing matters towards their own electoral priorities, which may be based on populist messages … Councillors are already elected locally to represent the community as advocates on crime and community safety issues. The LGA does not believe that setting up parallel structures with a conflicting and competing mandate will aid the police in working with partners to reduce crime, nor will it increase the representation of local residents in decisions on policing.[282]

According to Councillor Eaton, more than 1,000 councillors from all political parties have written to the Home Secretary to express their concern.[283]

245. As control over performance moves away from the centre to the locality, it is important that local accountability structures are strengthened so that people have the means to judge police performance and express their confidence, or lack of it. Police authorities in their current form are under-resourced and relatively unknown to local people. Therefore, we support reform in this area.

246. It is not clear to us how the Government's proposals for reforming police authorities as set out in the Green Paper will help to increase the accountability of the police to local people. The relatively low turnouts at local elections are unlikely to rise for independent authority members, meaning that new Crime and Policing Representatives may have as little, if not less, mandate to represent local people than current councillors. In addition, with regard to London authorities, we query why elected authority members appointed by the Mayor to sit on the MPA have any greater democratic mandate than elected councillors who sit on other police authorities. We are also concerned about the potential for this additional layer of representation to undermine partnership working between the police and local authorities.

247. We do, however, welcome the Government's further proposal to raise the capacity and influence of police authorities by introducing guidance on capacity, improving training and skills development and removing barriers to exchange of data from police force to authority. It is doubtful, however, whether their capacity can be much improved without more resources.

Neighbourhood policing

248. Since 2003, the police service has piloted a new form of policing which takes place below basic command unit level. Neighbourhood policing introduces teams of police officers and police community support officers to 'neighbourhoods' corresponding to local government wards, with a focus on providing a more visible police presence and resolving minor crime and anti-social behaviour. The approach seeks to increase contact between the police and the public to make the work of the police more responsive to the needs of local people. The Government confirmed in March 2008 that the national rollout of neighbourhood policing was complete, so that there is a team operating in every neighbourhood in England and Wales.[284]


249. The Home Office published research in 2008, which compared evaluations of neighbourhood policing undertaken at the pilot stage between 2003 and 2005, and after the first year of national implementation when neighbourhood policing began to be implemented 'at scale'. The authors found:

250. In addition, Sir Ronnie Flanagan's Review of Policing identified that a wider neighbourhood management approach with partners to address community safety and quality of life issues, facilitated through joint-tasking, co-location, joint performance measures, pooling of budgets, joint training and the direction of an appropriate neighbourhood manager, was critically important in delivering successful neighbourhood policing.[286]


251. A key aim of neighbourhood policing is to involve local residents in setting priorities for police action. Chief Superintendent Steve Kirk told us that neighbourhood teams in Reading use street briefings, surveys, access to websites and public meetings to set priorities but also use the information "to get some quick wins about issues that people feel very strongly about".[287]

252. Neighbourhood action groups, involving local residents, meet to set priorities for police action in the neighbourhood. According to Chief Superintendent Kirk, "by far the most current issue is anti-social behaviour. Seventeen of our priorities are in relation to anti-social behaviour." In response, Reading Police has constructed a multi-agency approach to managing individuals who commit anti-social behaviour. Local people have also requested a focus on criminal damage, particularly graffiti, resulting in a decrease in the last year of 12% on average and a detection rate of 25%, "which is extremely high for that offence".[288] David Betts, who chairs the Purley Neighbourhood Action Group in West Berkshire, told us that neighbourhood policing has had a positive impact in his area: "we are seeing a lot more results from the introduction, particularly, of PCSOs, and from the direct consultation that is going on in communities".[289]

253. Difficulties can arise where local priorities conflict with other police priorities set at a higher level. Tony Page, a Reading Councillor, gave us the following example where a neighbourhood action group requested the police give a high priority to tackling cannabis use, which contradicted targets set for the force.[290] As we discussed in chapter two, the Government wants to move away from central targets to allow for more flexibility at a local level. However, this does not remove the potential for tension between priorities identified by local people as being important in their neighbourhood, and those identified by chief officers as in the public interest but which may be less visible to or less popular with the public.

254. Where community engagement is less successful, police forces may also find it hard to set priorities that are truly representative of local needs. According to HMIC, the 2007 police performance assessments highlight "the challenges that some police forces face in addressing locally identified issues".[291] A recent study cites the results of a Residents Panel Survey undertaken by a London local authority in 2007, when neighbourhood policing was already implemented throughout London, in which only 39% of respondents had heard of the Safer Neighbourhood Policing programme and only 18% of the Safer Neighbourhood Panel.[292]

255. Whether or not people are aware of the structures, Hackney Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Dann, was convinced of the value of Safer Neighbourhood Teams:

    I have no doubt that the Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Hackney are one of the main drivers of the confidence levels. The public attitude survey of last year—from being the worst out of 32 boroughs with 22% we have now moved to 63% on the borough.[293]

256. In order to raise the public profile of neighbourhood policing and therefore increase the involvement of local residents, Louise Casey proposed in her Cabinet Office review that standardised approaches to neighbourhood policing should be adopted by all forces, including agreeing a single name and identity for Neighbourhood Policing Teams; using a single name for local public engagement meetings on crime; and providing monthly common and comparable local information via these meetings.[294]

257. Early evidence suggests that neighbourhood policing can have a positive impact on public confidence in the police. In order to improve confidence levels, it is important that the public is kept informed of progress against local priorities.

258. We believe community engagement exercises facilitated by neighbourhood police teams can be an effective means of setting local priorities. However, in order for priorities to be truly representative of local concerns, the local community must be made more aware of how they can be involved. Despite the proposed move away from central targets, conflicts may still arise between neighbourhood priorities and priorities set at Basic Command Unit, force or national level. Neighbourhood police officers should be prepared to give an explanation to local people where it is essential that higher priorities take precedence.


259. Sir Ronnie Flanagan argued that neighbourhood policing "should be a golden thread that runs through every aspect of policing. It is not something to be separated, that in some way is totally detached from our counter-terrorist thrust, for example".[295] Chief Superintendent Dann agreed:

    The bid for me around Safer Neighbourhood Teams—and I have to say I think they are an absolutely fantastic asset and we should never go away from what we have put in place—is actually mainstream Safer Neighbourhood Teams (neighbourhood policing) as opposed to it being an add-on to what we do. It is absolutely critical, the relationship they build up, not just in dealing with gangs and local issues but the counter-terrorism aspects as well—gaining that knowledge and those contacts in the community.[296]

260. Chief Superintendent Kirk made a similar point about the use of intelligence gathered through neighbourhood policing in tackling more serious forms of crime:

    On the serious acquisitive crime front, what has been very significant in the last year is the increase in intelligence which has led to us being able to increase our level of enforcement. It will not necessarily be a neighbourhood officer who makes the arrest, but the information they gather will lead to an arrest. That has been quite significant.[297]

261. Local intelligence gathered through neighbourhood policing is being used to help tackle terrorism and other serious crime. All forces should ensure that they have adequate systems in place so that intelligence can be shared easily between neighbourhood officers and specialist and response teams.


262. Sir Ronnie Flanagan's Review of Policing outlined the need for further certainty around funding, as part of the process for embedding neighbourhood policing. The East Midlands collaboration expressed concern that "specialist policing provision could compromise the ability to meet local demand and deliver neighbourhood reassurance", noting the increased focus on protective services and other specialist areas of policing "that compete with neighbourhood policing for resources".[298] The Government, in response, has pledged in the Green Paper that ring-fenced funding will be maintained for at least a further three years.[299]

263. 20% of police officers in England and Wales are dedicated to neighbourhood policing.[300] In many cases, officers act jointly as both response and neighbourhood officers, rather than being based entirely in their neighbourhood. PC Andrew Tideswell, of Hucknall East neighbourhood team in Nottinghamshire, told us on our visit to Newark that he is tasked with a response duty about once every shift, which can take all day to conclude.[301] Some forces employ an abstraction policy to avoid this, which limits the amount of neighbourhood officers who can be "abstracted" to undertake tasks away from the neighbourhood, such as response duties. Chief Superintendent Steve Kirk of Reading noted:

    In terms of access, we have increased the number of officers and PCSOs on the beat, so that now in Reading there are 76 people within neighbourhoods who are red circled within those neighbourhoods. They do not go anywhere else. We have been very strict on our abstraction policy and we have had a zero abstraction rate for the last twelve months.[302]

264. Neighbourhood policing is competing with specialist services for funding. We welcome the Government's three-year commitment to continue to provide ring-fenced resources to neighbourhood policing. We are concerned that a large number of neighbourhood officers also have to undertake with response duties. In our view, all forces should adopt an abstraction policy that ensures that neighbourhood police officers are dedicated to operating in their neighbourhood.

Regional policing

The gap in delivering protective services

265. Organised crime and counter-terrorism tend to cross force boundaries and can require a high level of specialist skills and resources to tackle. As a consequence, Closing the Gap, a report published by HMIC in September 2005, found that the majority of individual forces do not have the capability or capacity to deliver protective services in these fields.[303]

266. The subsequent Home Office plan to merge the 43 forces to around 17 arose largely from the need to fill this gap. Sir Ronnie Flanagan explained the rationale:

    We did not say in our report that the current structure of 43 forces is unfit for purpose. What we said is that a smaller number of more strategically sized forces would probably be more fit for purpose … In that debate we came up with a size something of the order of 6,000 officers [and police staff] which we said we considered to be a strategically sized force and one that could consume most of its own smoke. There was always still going to be the need for very close collaboration even with forces of that size.[304]

267. However, the force merger agenda was abandoned the following year, following criticism from a number of chief officers, and was replaced by a move towards greater regional collaboration. HMIC informed us that "the initial thrust for structural solutions" has been replaced by a move towards "more co-operative and collaborative approaches", including "Demonstrator Projects" ranging from comprehensive shared protective services' commands to joint major enquiry teams, good practice from which will be shared across the service.[305]

268. We heard evidence of good practice from the four Welsh forces who, in addition to collaborating on counter-terrorism issues through the Welsh Extremism and Counter-Terrorism Unit, are considering appointing a deputy chief constable to oversee serious crime and counter-terrorism throughout Wales.; and also the East Midlands, who work together to deliver the following protective services:[306]

Protective service projects

Witness protection

Hi Tech Crime

Specialist Operational Capacity and Capability Incidents requiring multiple skills (double-hatting)

Capacity and Capability to tackle level 2/3 criminality

Domestic abuse

Live/cold case reviews

Coordinated response to enforcement within Class A Drug Supply

Sex and dangerous offenders

Availability, capability and resilience of trained critical incident commanders

The Serious Organised Crime Agency was also set up in 2006 to work closely with police forces in this area.

269. However, we received evidence suggesting that the gap has not been closed. The Police Federation, for example, was "concerned": "In recent years most focus has been given to the ends of the crime spectrum leaving the middle (including serious and organised crime) largely overlooked. We do not have confidence that SOCA is filling this gap in an effective way".[307]

270. Only 12 out of 43 forces now employ over 6,000 staff—the Metropolitan, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Hampshire, Kent, Merseyside, Thames Valley, West Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall, Lancashire, Northumbria, and Avon and Somerset forces.[308]

271. Operation Overt, an investigation into a British terrorist cell that was plotting to detonate liquid bombs, involved seven different forces: Lancashire Police, as one suspect was born in Blackburn; West Midlands Police, as another originated from Birmingham; South Wales police, which was where another suspect picked up hydrogen peroxide; Thames Valley Police, as the same suspect lived in High Wycombe; Essex Police, where a number of co-conspirators lived and attended sixth-form college; Hampshire Constabulary, where one defendant formerly lived; and the Metropolitan Police, as Heathrow was the start point for alleged airline attacks. Andy Hayman, who led the Operation, has explained the difficulties with regards to a counter-terrorism operation:

    Scotland Yard takes the national lead on counter-terrorism, but operations depend on the co-operation of 43 police forces in England and Wales … and a relatively new set of counter-terrorism units. It means that any anti-terrorism operation is complicated by having to work across many county boundaries, dealing with different chief constables and forces of wildly varying manpower and experience. At its worst, it means that the fight against terror can be hampered by turf wards between the forces and the clash of the egos of chief constables.[309]


272. ACPO noted some positive developments since 2006 in relation to closing the gap in counter-terrorism provision, including the emerging structure of Counter-Terrorism Units. The Association advocated replicating this success for serious and organised crime, in other words using new resources within existing structures.[310] Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison told us that in relation to resources:

    The gap is being addressed by means of collaboration and some additional funding from central Government. But whilst it is being addressed, it is not being closed … You asked me specifically about Ronnie's ideas around efficiency and cutting bureaucracy. I think that is going to make a difference but it is not going to allow the additionality that would be required to tackle organised criminality. It has been estimated by ACPO that, in order to interdict in the organised criminality we know of, we would require an uplift of about £300 million, and efficiencies are not going to give us that.[311]

The East Midlands collaboration agreed that more resources are needed: "Whilst the collaboration programme will generate efficiencies, the likelihood is that these will meet only a proportion of the cost of enhancing protective services across the East Midlands".[312]

273. The Minister of State, however, was unconvinced:

    The gap and the importance of protective services is not new, and this is not an add-on to routine, everyday policing; it is part of what they should be doing anyway. I think there are excellent examples up and down the country of collaborative projects between forces to close that gap at the serious and organised crime end. Equally, and in passing, I would say I have had discussions with both ACPO and SOCA to talk about at the very high end in terms of serious and organised crime (those are almost supra-regional) where SOCA could be focusing with ACPO a little bit more.[313]


274. The Minister of State also told us that force mergers were no longer being considered by the Home Office:

The Home Office has said that it will consider requiring collaboration for protective service areas "where there is an operational and business imperative for decisions and processes to be taken at particular levels and in a consistent manner", for example to strengthen the current response to serious and organised crime.[315]

275. According to Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, the professional police view, while not unanimous, favours mergers:

    It remains the professional view that a smaller number of strategically sized forces would be the best way of arranging ourselves against 21st century ills. The fear in the public's mind is that that would be a retreat from localism, that they would be losing their local police … [But] what we would be able to do with a smaller number of strategically sized forces is the strategic stuff in the hubs leaving the local policing delivered by a local inspector and a local superintendent, and what that would mean is that there could be an integrated relationship with the community leaving the sort of stuff that is a rarity within that community to be handled by people at a more strategic level.[316]

276. We do, however, note the opposition to mergers from forces whose officers feel that it would not be in the best interests of the communities they serve, particularly those who would be merged with areas with higher crime rates; and recognise the potential for a weakening in police accountability as larger forces would be further removed from local communities.

277. We are concerned about the shortfall in police capacity to deal with serious and organised crime. In our view, there is a strong case to be made for more resources to be provided to the police. We remain unconvinced about the effectiveness of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency and its relationship with police forces.

278. While we consider the Government was right to withdraw its proposals to compel forces to merge, we are convinced of the need for closer working at a regional level. Therefore, we are not opposed to voluntary mergers but reiterate we our support for the Government to require collaboration in protective services where this proves necessary.

279. We are encouraged at progress made to improve the ability of the police to manage the terrorist threat. However, we were unable to judge during our inquiry whether the police have the capacity and capability to respond to a major terrorist attack.

London 2012

Security planning for the Games

280. ACPO also warned that a lack of ability to co-ordinate the service at a national level will have implications for the Olympics:

281. The London Olympic Games are only four years away. A report on Olympic preparedness commissioned by the Mayor of London advised in June 2008 that "security plans are at a very early stage and significantly behind the rest of the planning".[318] The Mayor told us:

    I do think that it is vital that we establish very soon what the security architecture is going to be for the Games; that is to say, we have to know if we are going to have police milling around; are we going to have lots of security arches; are we going to rely on intelligence? What is our approach to policing of the Games going to be because it will greatly affect the experience of the punters at the Games; it will already affect the way we lay on the Games. I am afraid that not enough work has been done on this so far.[319]

282. The Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Len Duvall, was concerned about this lack of progress from the perspective of the force's ability to plan for the Olympics as well of their other responsibilities:

    It is the same with Olympic grants. Paul [Stephenson] and his colleagues need to do the job, they give you their best shots, but we need some certainty about the money and issues around that so we can get on and plan, and we are getting there with that money. We have recently had it; it would have been nice if it was a bit earlier, but the interface we have with government needs to be sharpened and more focused if we are going to do a good job.[320]

283. This uncertainty over funding and commitments also has an impact on forces outside London, which will play a role in policing the Olympics owing to the scale of the event:

    At this stage, quantifying the resources that will be required to support the Olympics is difficult. There is already an expectation on the police service that it is starting to build the Olympic factor into forward financial and resource planning. This will be an issue for some Police Authorities as their funding is focused primarily on the needs of their police area and any additional investment to support the Olympics will have to be the subject of discussion with central Government.[321]

284. The ACPO lead on the Olympic Games, Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes, advised that the Games will require around two-and-a-half million security personnel, made up of officers and private security guards. He has raised some concern that, in the Metropolitan Police alone, 40% of firearms officers will be able to take retirement before 2012, although discussion into retaining some of the officers for the Games was continuing.[322]


285. Despite the benefits that Airwave has brought, as set out in chapter four, the Police Federation expressed concern about the ability of the network to cope with large-scale events such as the forthcoming Olympics:

286. 92% of delegates at the Police Federation annual conference in May 2008 voted that the system is "inadequate", the then-Vice Chair, Alan Gordon, saying it "would struggle to cope with a well-attended egg and spoon race, let alone with the 2012 Olympics".[324]

287. The Academy of Engineering explained the cause of the problem:

    The amount of voice traffic is now reaching the limits of the current system's spectrum resources in some areas (particularly in London). This suggests that the Airwave system will be inadequate for the future needs of the police forces, particularly in densely populated areas where information needs are likely to exceed the TETRA network's capacity.

    Airwave has limited (narrow) bandwidth and data capability. Existing equipment is capable of carrying more traffic but additional spectrum is required. Rather than use another band it would be easier and less expensive to expand the band assigned to Airwave to the full range. In the UK, military users occupy the part of the band not assigned to Airwave, so this expansion would need to be managed carefully.[325]

288. Mr Bobbett, of Airwave Solutions Ltd, told us that although the Airwave system has over 99% geographical coverage, a physical restriction would be expected. The system is now, owing in large part to implementation across the Metropolitan Police, carrying three or four times the amount of communications previously carried.[326]

289. Mr Bobbett noted that Airwave Solutions was working with the Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, as well as the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office lead for the Olympics, to overcome the problem: "I think every technology has some limits, but we are talking about many thousands of officers. If I take G8 as a real-life example, I think we had 3,000 officers in and around the Gleneagles event itself, and the system worked very well".[327]

290. We also put our concerns to the Minister of State, who replied:

    The reality is much closer to what Airwave was suggesting than the Police Federation, but I know, in the City, in the next breath, that there have been teething problems and issues … There are difficulties, not least around surges of activity, which we do need to try and understand more readily … I know that people—certainly the Met—are fully on the case in terms of ensuring the durability of the Airwave network for the Olympics.[328]

291. On a related point, we raised the possibility of another terrorist attack on the transport network and how Airwave would cope with this. Mr Bobbett responded:

    The Airwave system is completely joined up between the surface and the tunnel, and as we sit here today and I refer to the underground stations, obviously the stations that are above ground on the London Underground system have coverage already, but those that are under ground, about 75% actually now have the system deployed into the stations and tunnels.[329]

292. Chief Constable Johnston agreed with this analysis, but noted his anxiety that the station programme is dictated according to engineering rather than operational priorities, which means that "some of the more important places are not getting covered as quickly as we might like".[330]

293. Insufficient progress has been made in bringing forward a plan to secure the London Olympic Games, which are now only four years away. We are concerned at the potential implications both for security during the event and for planning by individual forces who will be involved in delivery. The Home Office should take urgent steps to ensure that planning security for the Games is properly co-ordinated across police forces and other authorities.

294. The Airwave radio network can struggle to cope where a very large number of users are concentrated in the same area. We are concerned about the potential for the network to fail during the Olympic 2012 games, given the numbers of officers who will be deployed. The Home Office should address this as a matter of urgency, including consideration of expanding the radio band assigned to Airwave. We expect the Home Office to keep us informed as to practical steps they are taking in partnership with Airwave Solutions.

295. We welcome assurances that radio communication between tunnel and surface is now possible through most of the London Underground network. This is of particular importance should the system once again be subject to terrorist attack. The priority for remaining installation work should be those stations with greatest operational need.

267   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, pp 79-82.  Back

268   Local Government Association, Answering to you: policing in the 21st century, June 2008, p 6 Back

269   R. Muir & G. Lodge, A New Beat: Options for more accountable policing, IPPR, June 2008, p 3 Back

270   Q 792 Back

271   R. Muir & G. Lodge, A New Beat: Options for more accountable policing, IPPR, June 2008, p 3 Back

272   Q 47 Back

273   Q 6 Back

274   Ev 204 [Police Federation]; Ev 239-40 [ACPO]; Q 707 [Mr Jones] Back

275   Ev 235  Back

276   Q 708  Back

277   Q 711 Back

278   Ev 160 Back

279   Q 152 Back

280   Q 706 Back

281   Home Office, From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, July 2008, pp 32-33 Back

282   Ev 299 Back

283   Letter to the Editor, The Times, 7 October 2008, p 29 Back

284   "Smith sets out policing pledge", BBC News Online, 31 March 2008,  Back

285   Home Office Online Report 01/08, Neighbourhood policing: the impact of piloting and early national implementation, 2008, pp iv-vii Back

286   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, p 67 Back

287   Q 332 Back

288   Q 337 Back

289   Q 332 Back

290   Committee visit to Reading, 24 April 2008 Back

291   Ev 151 Back

292   Harriet Sergeant, The Public and the Police, London: Civitas, 2008, pp 56-7 Back

293   Q 780 Back

294   Louise Casey, Engaging Communities in the Fight Against Crime, Cabinet Office, June 2008, Executive Summary, p 11 Back

295   Q 51 Back

296   Q 780 Back

297   Q 340 Back

298   Ev 223 Back

299   Home Office, From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, July 2008, p 16 Back

300   Her Majesty's Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary, Phase 2 inspections of neighbourhood policing and developing citizen focus policing: West Midlands Police inspection report, September 2008, p 9 Back

301   Committee visit to Newark, 25 February 2008 Back

302   Q 332 Back

303   Her Majesty's Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary, Closing the Gap: HMIC thematic report, September 2005 Back

304   Q 10,13 Back

305   Ev 153 Back

306   Ev 227 Back

307   Ev 204 Back

308   Home Office, Police Service Strength England and Wales, 31 March 2008, July 2008 Back

309   "Police politics are stalling our war on terror", The Times, 10 September 2008, p 28 Back

310   Ev 237 Back

311   Q 172 Back

312   Ev 227 Back

313   Q 795 Back

314   Q 807 Back

315   Home Office, From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, July 2008, p 72 Back

316   Q 179  Back

317   Ev 237 Back

318   Mayor of London website,, accessed 8 July 2008 Back

319   Q 858 Back

320   Q 138 Back

321   Ev 224 Back

322   "Get into the Games or 'get another job'", Police Review, 10 October 2008, p 7 Back

323   Ev 205 Back

324   "Airwave 'not up to' Olympic qualification", Police Review, 23 May 2008, p 4 Back

325   Ev 244 Back

326   Qq 526, 528 Back

327   Q 527. The Gleneagles G8 summit took place in 2005 and involved all 51 forces across England, Wales and Scotland. Back

328   Q 802 Back

329   Q 523 Back

330   Q 588 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 10 November 2008